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Port of Oakland Shutdown Brings Union, Port Officials to Bargaining Table

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Jennifer Inez Ward/Oakland Local

Oakland Port workers went on strike partly because they have been without a contract for almost 17 months.

After seeing its maritime operations shut down Tuesday, the Port of Oakland agreed to talk with the union representing its public service staff, thanks in large part to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Late Tuesday evening, both sides said they soon will sit down to begin bargaining.

The move comes after the port was shut down by the SEIU Local 1021 and its supporters. Picketers blocked all 15 gates, causing trucks to back up for almost a half mile. The strike action featured the support of both the Alameda Labor Council, as well as the International Labor Workers.

Union demonstrations that involved another set of SEIU port workers, also took place Tuesday night at the Oakland International Airport, but there were no disruptions to operations. The Port of Oakland owns the Oakland airport. About 500 people total participated in both actions.

Port of Oakland officials said they were eager for a resolution.

"The port is committed to reaching a mutual agreeable contract, as soon as possible," Acting Port Executive Director Deborah Ale Flint said in a press release. "This important step will allow our marine terminals to reopen for the evening shift and make sure our truckers and shippers can get their goods to market on time."

SEIU Local 1021 President Roxanne Sanchez echoed Flint's remarks.

"We are encouraged that the Port of Oakland has agreed to a path that will quickly bring us together," she said. "We hope to reach a resolution as soon as possible."

Quan was credited with helping to bring the port and SEIU back to the table.

"Both sides need to come together so that the port can continue being the economic engine of good jobs that we all need it to be," Quan said in a statement.

Standing in a steady rain during a chilly dawn, workers and their supporters marched in front of port entryways with signs and rain slickers. Port workers said they have been without a contract for almost 17 months.

"No one wants to strike," said Jane Parks, who has worked for the port for 11 years. "No one wants to stand out here in the rain. We're losing money, other workers are losing money - but it's the only option we have."

Also at the port that morning were the truck drivers that are responsible for loading and unloading containers. Their trucks were left idle - stuck parked behind scores of other trucks - bout 100 total.

Some truckers said they weren't happy with the strike, but other said they supported the action.

"This is very frustrating," truck driver Juan Sanchez said. "I'm worried about money and I'm just not sure what's going on."

Another driver, Ricardo Martinez, said the SEIU was right to strike for a new contract.

"I get where they are coming from," he said. "Yeah, I know I'm going to lose money, but this is about all of us."

Some of the people demonstrating in front of the terminal gates with workers had come in from out of town.

"I feel like workers these days are getting pushed around and especially by big companies like Goldman Sachs," Sara Zimmer of San Francisco said. "We have to stand up for each other."

The port shutdown was another calamity within the last year that the Port of Oakland has felt.

A year ago this month, the port was shut down not once, but twice by Occupy Oakland; then there is the strippers fiasco that caused its director to resign.

Don't count on learning about the financial impact anytime soon. The port still has not publicly disclosed how much Occupy Oakland cost.

"It's impossible to determine in the short term how much it will cost," Port of Oakland spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said.

Source: Oakland Local [http://m.oaklandlocal.com/article/port-oakland-shutdown-brings-union-port-officials-bargaining-table]

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